Officials in Florida Back Off Land Restriction, Thanks to Property-Rights Watchdog

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PLFAfter almost two years of bat­tling local reg­u­la­tors, a small Hobe Sound, Fla. busi­ness is final­ly in the clear.

Mar­tin Coun­ty offi­cials have decid­ed they will not levy $1,000 dai­ly fines against the Flash Beach Grille restau­rant for vio­lat­ing a decades’ old, unrecord­ed envi­ron­men­tal prop­er­ty restriction.

Nev­er mind the local government’s beef stemmed from its own mis­take, or that enforc­ing the fines was prob­a­bly against state law. Robert and Ani­ta Breinig, the restaurant’s own­ers, can now move for­ward with their busi­ness, and their lives.

That’s no small thing for a cou­ple with 17 years of sweat in the food ser­vice indus­try who risked every­thing to buy their restau­rant building.

Last year, Mar­tin Coun­ty threat­ened to ruin our dream of own­ing and run­ning a restau­rant on our own piece of prop­er­ty,” Robert Breinig said after coun­ty offi­cials final­ly backed-off this week.

Five hun­dred dol­lars a day would put me out of busi­ness in a week,” Breinig told Watch­dog in Sep­tem­ber while explain­ing Hobe Sound’s sea­son­al economy.

In 1990, local offi­cials placed a 40-by-70-foot con­ser­va­tion ease­ment on the lot. But the coun­ty failed to record it and decid­ed to hold the Breinig’s account­able when a code inspec­tor stum­bled onto the restric­tion dur­ing a rou­tine inspec­tion for a liquor license.

I was flab­ber­gast­ed,” Breinig said.

Pre­vi­ous prop­er­ty own­ers also were unaware, as a title search failed to turn up any record of the ease­ment before the Breinig’s bought the lot.

A coun­ty com­mis­sion doc­u­ment con­cedes the ease­ment was nev­er record­ed with the coun­ty clerk and, accord­ing to state law, good-faith buy­ers are pro­tect­ed against undis­closed items when buy­ing real estate.

But it took more than that for the local gov­ern­ment to do the right thing.

Local bureau­crats in the afflu­ent area north of West Palm Beach relent­ed, thanks to legal push­back from the Pacif­ic Legal Foundation’s Flori­da-based Atlantic Cen­ter. The non­prof­it pub­lic inter­est law firm took up the small business’s cause, free of charge.

The Breinigs are very nice, hard-work­ing peo­ple who you can­not help but want to suc­ceed. PLF looks for­ward to see­ing what comes next for them and the Flash Beach Grille,” said Mark Miller, PLF man­ag­ing attorney.

Accord­ing to PLF, the coun­ty has agreed to redraw the con­ser­va­tion plot and will pro­vide $1,000 for approved vegetation.

Although at times the Breinigs con­sid­ered press­ing for­ward on prin­ci­ple, they real­ized that this set­tle­ment pro­vid­ed cer­tain­ty for their future, the future of their busi­ness, the employ­ees who count on the Flash Beach Grille for their liveli­hood, and their loy­al cus­tomers,” Miller said.

The Breinig’s case is the lat­est prop­er­ty rights vic­to­ry for the legal watch­dog, whose record includes impres­sive wins in U.S. Supreme Court.